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Gala is the unofficial kick-off to the Marathon Classic

(WTVG)
Published: Jul. 18, 2017 at 10:04 PM EDT
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Before the hustle and bustle starts on the course, sponsors, golfers and other proud supporters of the Marathon Classic take a little time to unwind and celebrate.

Tuesday, hundreds of people packed the SeaGate Centre for the Huntington Gala and Show, a kick-off of sorts, for the LPGA tournament.

"We are elated that Sylvania is home to northwest Ohio's largest event of the year," Michelle Sprott, Executive Director of the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce said.

Fans from all over will make a stop at Highland Meadows over the next week to see the best of the best, putting Sylvania in the national spotlight.

"The traction that our businesses get, pre and post tournament, is phenomenal," Sprott said. "Our downtown and everything thrives. It's truly wonderful that we can have it."

Not only does it attract the world's best women golfers, but also recruits dozens of volunteers, all while raising money for local children's charities.

"It's phenomenal," says Kelli Burkhardt.

She wears two hats. For the last two decades, she's been a volunteer.

"I've been on hold 3 as a marshal for over 20 years," Burkhardt said.

And for the second time the charity she founded, called Together We Can Make a Difference Initiatives, will benefit from the competition.

"We have provided personal care and toiletry items to more than 3,500 different families in northwest Ohio and we help right around 350 families a month," she said.

In fact, in the last 32 years, the Marathon Classic has raised close to $10 million to help others, just like Burkhardt.

"A lot of kids don't have a chance if it wasn't for a lot of these charities," she said.

Tournament play begins on Thursday. Sunday is the final day.